Story with a Result
Sadeq Hedayat

translated by
Iraj Bashiri

copyright 1998

      There was an ordinary man named Mashdi Zulfaqar; he had an ordinary wife named Sitare Khanum.
      No sooner had Zulfaqar entered the house one day than Gawhar Sultan, his mother, ran to him and began complaining about Sitare Khanum, saying,"You cuckold! Are you aware that your wife is carrying on with all kinds of lovers? Be proud of yourself. In my day, when a stranger knocked on the door, the young women of the house put pebbles under their tongues to sound like old hags. Even today things like this are preached from the pulpit, but who listens? Earlier today, for a pennyworth of ice, Sitare traipsed halfway down the street wearing only a petticoat. And this morning, when she was gathering up the bedclothes on the roof, I caught her flirting with Ali the tinker in the lane below. Good Lord, that dead figure of hers--she looks like a ghost out of the grave. I could kick myself for not getting you Ustad Mashallah's daughter. She was like a bouquet of flowers with a thousand skills in every one of her fingers. I wonder whether your wife struts over her wealth or her dowry! I did my best to teach her how to prepare dough; do you think I could? She spoiled a whole bag of flour--it turned sour and had to be thrown out. I prepared the dough again and made the loaves. No matter what I say, she gives me her: 'I got married to pretty myself, not to patch up clothes!'"
      At this point Zulfaqar, boiling with rage, stormed into the room and, as on every other day, took the whip off the peg and lashed into Sitare, beating her as hard as he could. The serpent-like black leather lengths of the whip coiled around her body, leaving black streaks on her arm. Sitare, shrouded in her prayer veil, moaned but no one came to her rescue.
      Half an hour later, the door opened and Gawhar Sultan, biting her lip and wearing a cunning smile, entered to intervene. She caught Zulfaqar by the arm and said, "Good God, what are you doing? You haven't caught a Jew! Why are you beating her like that? Get up, Sitare; get up dear! I have kindled the oven pit. Fetch the basin of dough and let's bake..."
      Sitare took the dough from under the basket. When she neared the baking pit, she saw her mother-in-law bending over it, blowing into the fire. As fate would have it, Sitare tripped over the nearby water bucket and fell; the dough basin landed on top of Gawhar Sultan. The mother-in-law was thrown waste-deep into the oven. Half of an hour later, when Sitare recovered from her fake swoon, half of Gawhar Sultan's body was done to a crisp.
      The result: this story instructs us never to leave a wife and her mother-in-law alone near an oven pit.

Sadeq Hedayat's Corner

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